Diet & Nutrition

The ketogenic diet vs the Mediterranean diet: two dietitians weigh in on which is best

They’re two of the most-talked about diets this year, but which is more beneficial? We took it to the experts to find out.
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In case you hadn’t noticed, the ketogenic diet, which grew in popularity last year, isn’t going anywhere just yet. With the potential to see rapid weight loss, it counts celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Halle Berry as big fans.

This year a new way of eating also got added to the mix, the Fast 800 diet, which is a combination of eating a Mediterranean diet, paired with intermittent fasting, and is said to help promote rapid weight loss in just 8 weeks.

We took the keto and Mediterranean diet to the experts to find out which one they think is the most beneficial. (Image: Getty)

If you’ve ever thought about giving either one of them a go, or wondered which would best benefit you, we put the two diets under the microscope, and took them to two experts to hear their thoughts on the pros and cons of each.

The ketogenic diet: the short-term fat burner

The ketogenic or keto diet is a very low-carbohydrate, medium protein and high-fat diet that induces a state of ketosis in the body, which forces the body to shift from glucose (sugar/carbs) as a main source of energy and instead uses ketones (from fat), which can cause rapid weight loss.

“This means all grains (bread, rice, cereals), starchy vegetables, fruit, dairy and processed foods are all on the ‘not allowed’ list,” explains dietitian and founder of @healthyhappyhabits, Rachel Scoular.

Fuel Your Life accredited dietitian, Aidan Muir, explains that the keto diet was originally used as a treatment for seizures, but has since grown in popularity as a tool for rapid weight loss.

“One of the major benefits of the diet is that the state of ketosis suppresses appetite,” Aidan explains.

“Which makes it easier to eat fewer calories, which is a large part of why people often lose so much weight if they stick to it.

“The fact that it also limits food choices so severely due to the restrictive nature of the diet can also make it easier to eat fewer calories since there are also less options.”

On the keto diet, all grains, starchy vegetables, fruit, dairy and processed foods are off the cards. (Image: Getty)

Rachel adds, “Whilst it’s proven to be successful for short-term weight loss, it’s extremely difficult to maintain and adapt to social settings.

“You’re also at risk of nutrient deficiencies such as calcium, fibre, vitamins and minerals, due to the many food groups that are excluded from the eating plan.”

Aidan agrees: “It also cuts out a lot of foods that are high in prebiotics [that] are beneficial for gut-health.

“I am yet to come across a single client who has been able to stick to it closely enough to remain in ketosis for an extended period of time.”

The Mediterranean diet: the long-term investment

On the flipside of the keto diet is the Mediterranean diet, which has been well-researched and linked to protective claims and health benefits.

“The Mediterranean diet is more of a lifestyle change than a diet per se,” Rachel says.

Based on what people from Italy and Greece ate in the 1960s, it primarily focuses on the consumption of plant-based foods – think plenty of fruit and vegetables, legumes, seafood and heart healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados, nuts and oily fish.

The Mediterranean diet focuses on plant-based foods like fruit and vege, legumes, seafood and healthy fats. (Image: Getty)

“The Mediterranean diet is very nutrient-rich, that also has an anti-inflammatory effect,” Aidan says.

“In terms of health, the Mediterranean diet emphasises a lot of dietary patterns that are linked with longevity and the avoidance of chronic disease.”

Because the diet takes a very balanced approach, with a modest amount of protein, Aidan explains that it may be harder to achieve rapid weight loss or gain muscle – however the research is clear that it can be useful for helping people achieve and maintain a healthy weight in the long term.

So what’s the verdict? Which diet is the best for improved overall health?

Rachel: “I’m an advocate for the Mediterranean diet, without a doubt.

“With the strong focus on healthy fats, the diet has been proven to have favourable impacts on cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and links to a reduced risk of cancer and diabetes.

“In terms of practicality, the Mediterranean diet is much more flexible and easy to adapt than keto.

“With keto, you need to strictly control your carbohydrate intake, and could push yourself out of ketosis after just one of two high carb meals, which will take you days to get back into ketosis.”

Aidan: “In my opinion there is no optimal diet for overall health, but if there was, the Mediterranean diet is likely the closest option we have at this stage.

“The emphasis on a nutrient-rich diet that contains a wide-variety of foods and an appropriate amount of calories should be the number one focus for overall health.”

So it seems the verdict is clear – while the keto diet can aid in quick, short-term weight loss, it can be incredibly difficult to maintain.

If you’re looking to improve your overall health, the Mediterranean diet, paired with exercise can help you in achieving weight loss goals, while it has also shown to be more beneficial for your overall health long term.

It seems the verdict is clear – when compared to the keto diet, the Mediterranean diet is more beneficial for your overall health. (Image: Shutterstock)

“The hardest thing about any diet is sticking to it,” Rachel explains.

“Regardless of the diet you choose, it’s always going to be a good idea to cut down on processed foods, particularly those high in refined sugars, fat and salt.

“In most cases, you’ll find that by simply cutting down on these foods and prioritising your fruit and vegetable intake, you’re already placing yourself at a good chance of weight loss if you are carrying extra weight, but weight loss aside, you’re sure to improve your health considerably.”

The Ministry of Health recommends talking to your GP before undertaking any major changes to your diet.

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